Tuesday 11 August 2009

'Papers need committed readers not gadflies'

Tim Luckhurst, head of the Centre for Journalism at the University of Kent, has come down in favour of Rupert Murdoch in the debate over newspapers charging for news on their websites.
Writing on his blog, Luckhurt says: "Quality journalism is expensive. If Rupert can pioneer a system of micro-payments that will finance foreign correspondents, subject specialists and investigations, then his decision may mark the beginning of the end of the delusion that online news should be free. After all, we all know that, in reality, it is being subsidised by declining traditional newspapers and broadcasters."
Luckhurst, a former BBC journalist and editor of the Scotsman, adds: "We have been told for years that millions of unique users would create revenue. They do not create anything approaching enough and it does not serve the interests of good journalism to pretend that they do. Losses at newspapers such as the Guardian, one of the biggest and most inventive internet pioneers, demonstrate that painful truth. It is better to attract 10,000 readers who pay than 5 million who do not. Even advertisers will agree about that. They want committed readers with identifiable interests, not millions of promiscuous gadflies.
"The idea that the internet can transform journalism by introducing the perspectives of millions of untrained, unedited amateur reporters is only partially true. Of course it is tremendous to receive tweets from Iran or blogs from Tibet. I'm all in favour of that. But without editing and collation by professional journalists this is a clear case of going back to a very poor future. We had this sort of citizen journalism in the unstamped, radical press of the early nineteenth century. It was rooted in ideology not fact and prone to spread rumour. It was also easily ignored. To give the majority real power journalism needed to become fact based, accurate and sufficiently profitable to take on powerful vested interests."

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